"Cecil County is not part of Bob Ward Homes' market," said Linda Veach, senior vice president of the company. The largest private builder in Harford County plans expansion to the south -- in Anne Arundel and Howard counties -- even though rumors persist of the company's interest in building in Cecil County, according to Veach. "People coming from Baltimore County and Baltimore City do not want to go as far as Cecil County when they are looking for a house," Veach said.
Because Cecil County is closer to Wilmington than Baltimore, it's considered part of the Wilmington-area market on surveys -- meaning none of the development under way in Cecil is showing up on Baltimore-area sales reports. That doesn't concern Gemcraft's Luther, who started building in Cecil County three years ago.
"We don't have any concerns with 100 sales [in 1998] there, which isn't too shabby," said Luther, whose company sold 22 houses in Cecil County in 1997. The company sold about five houses in the county the previous year.
The company has several single-family-home developments in the county. Among them is Fox Catcher/Hunter's Crossing, which boasts four- and five-bedroom houses on wooded lots in Fair Hill, starting in the upper $170,000s; Colonial Ridge, which offers houses priced from $117,000 in Elkton; and Great Oaks, featuring four- and five-bedroom houses with two-car garages in Rising Sun. Gemcraft is also building townhouses, starting in the low $80,000s, in the Villages of Southfield in Elkton.
Cecil County presents a mixed bag for developers. Municipalities such as Perryville, Port Deposit, North East, Rising Sun, Elkton and Chesapeake City have their own control of planning and zoning, access to water and sewer lines, where available, and a myriad of other issues affecting the developers' ability to build in parts of the county.
"Each municipality is its own kingdom," said Barry Montgomery, a county real estate developer who controls about 700 developable lots in Cecil County. "Until they come together with one plan, it's going to keep things from going well."
Montgomery, who grew up in Cecil County and has operated a real estate business in the county since 1975, said people who move to Cecil County from the Baltimore area often are shocked at the distance they must travel for services.
"People used to being close to shopping and things next door aren't going to find that here," he said. For instance, residents of Beacon Point in Perryville have to travel north about six miles to Elkton or south about five miles to Havre de Grace to find a full-service grocery store.
But Melanie Saldana-Petrick, a special education teacher at Perryville Middle School who moved into a $92,000 townhouse near Elkton this year, says she likes the quiet lifestyle of Cecil County.
"It's quiet and more rural than I am used to," said Saldana-Petrick, a former resident of Baltimore who admits she travels to Harford County, Chesapeake City and Newark, Del., for a night out.
Motorists traveling north and south along I-95 pay little attention to the county's bucolic landscape.
But change is more evident along Old Field Point Road, which runs southeast from U.S. 40 just south of Elkton. Beginning near U.S. 40, the two-lane Old Field Point Road, recently repaved and repainted, offers a steady dose of farms and large properties with old houses. But about three miles down the road, the scene changes.
Signs denoting land and lots for sale at River Point Landing, Old Field Acres and Bay Country lead to single-family-house developments -- such as St. John's Manor, St. John's Vista and Bradfield New Homes -- mixed with cornfields and grazing cows.
The view from St. John's Vista east offers an old farm, its silo and barn etching an outline in the sky. To the northeast is the Elk Neck River, with a marina off in the distance. Closer, a hunter crosses a field, heading toward the woods, gun on his shoulder, intent on finding deer.
Less than a mile away, a new school, Elk Neck Elementary, offers education to the increasing number of children who live in the single-family houses on half-acre lots in the Villages of Elk Neck.
"We're the last outpost, because we're still the country," said Patrick Ulrich, president of Century 21/Ulrich & Co., which sells about 200 homes in the county each year.
Pub Date: 1/24/99